Best of Pets 2021: Tucson’s Dogtopia locations unique from national locations

Tucson’s franchise Dogtopia locations are relatively new to the area, but after a large transformation last year, they’re seeing plenty of business and wagging tails. With locations across the US and Canada, Dogtopia brands themselves as the leading provider of dog daycare in North America. However, the two locations in Tucson and one in downtown Phoenix operate under a slightly different model to facilitate a tight-knit community of dogs. 

The first local Dogtopia opened in Oro Valley in March 2018, on Oracle Road. The following year, a second Dogtopia opened on Tanque Verde Road. According to Dogtopia relationship manager David Duran, both Tucson locations underwent a massive transformation during COVID, briefly shutting down and receiving a new management team. 

These local locations now operate under a “weekly enrollment model,” where all daycare dogs are required to come in and play at least once per week to ensure familiarity. The locations offer various enrollment plans from one day per week to unlimited daycare. In addition, only dogs enrolled in daycare are eligible for boarding.

“Our complete focus on regular daycare vs. boarding or occasional drop-in daycare means that our dogs know us, we know them and they know each other,” Duran said. “It makes for a much better daycare experience because they are really able to be themselves and have a great, stress-free time with their friends… This is precisely why we believe so much in our enrollment plans. With all of our daycare dogs first having to pass a Meet & Greet prior to enrollment, we are able to ensure that our playrooms are filled with a tight-knit group of dogs that enjoy playing together.”

The Meet & Greet process includes one-on-one time with a Dogtopia staff member, followed by a slow introduction to two or three dogs from one of the playrooms. Once the dog feels comfortable and staff is confident, they are introduced to the rest of the pack inside the playroom. After some further observation in the playroom, they assess whether weekly daycare is a good fit. According to Duran, they generally only schedule two Meet & Greets per day so that they don’t rush the process and take the proper time with each dog to ensure maximum safety. These Meet & Greet takes between 30 minutes and an hour. Each location has three playrooms to accommodate different sized dogs and their play styles. 

“Of course, there will be minor disputes among dogs at times but our Canine Coaches, who undergo extensive training, including how to read a dog’s body language, are trained to spot issues before they happen and to safely resolve the situation in the rare cases that they do,” Duran said. 

Beyond lodging, they provide dogs with treat days, photo parties, spa time and, lately, they’ve been hosting community events for their customers as well. Duran explains that they want their “dog parents” to find community through Dogtopia the same way other parents find community through their kids’ schools.

“Between people returning to work as well as taking much needed vacations, we have seen a huge increase in new sign-ups. We might have to start a waitlist soon!” Duran said. “It’s certainly been getting busy but hard to tell if that is from the heat or people going back to offices and travelling. Demand from the heat in the summer is typically complemented by an increased number of Northern visitors wintering down in Arizona so we are fairly steady throughout the year.”

But despite the increased heat, Dogtopia keeps their play areas air-conditioned while being open seven days a week, 365 days a year, with available extended early drop off and pick up hours from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Customers can even access playroom webcams so they can watch their dogs from afar. 

“Outside of our daycares, Dogtopia is very proud of its Dogtopia Foundation, which funds programs focused around three worthy causes: service dogs for veterans, youth literacy programs and employment initiatives for adults with autism,” Duran said. “Both of our Tucson stores are on their way to raising enough to each sponsor their first service dogs for veterans and we could not be prouder of our teams and thankful to our generous dog parents who continuously donate to the foundation.” 

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